The French have always had a reputation for being leaders in fashion. The Renaissance was no exception. This webpage is mainly dedicated the the study of French fashion and culture and its influence on the fashion of other cultures during the 16th Century. By the same token, we will also study the influence that other cultures had on French fashion and the fashion of the rest of Western Europe during that time period.
During the 16th Century, communications had improved and a lot of fashion "crossover" was taking place between various countries. One needs only to look at the portrait of Isabel of Valois, by Sofonisba Anguissola, to see this cultural mélange. Basically, the subject is a French princess (Isabel of Valois), married to the King of Spain (Phillip II), and painted by an Italian artist (Sofonisba Anguissola). Add in the fact that she was the daughter of a Florentine woman (Catherine de Médici), who became Queen of France by marriage to the man who eventually became King of France (Henri II) and you begin to see how the patchwork of cultural influences developed.
A quick analysis will tell us that the black gown Isabel is wearing is of the purest Spanish fashion, down to the puntas or points in the sleeves, which you will only see in Spanish portraiture. The splash of color, however, in the form crimson undersleeves and crimson puntas, is pure French flair, the contribution of the homesick French princess to Spanish fashion. The style of the painting is Italian mannerism at its best.And that is only the beginning . . .
So join me in my journey to compare and discover the peculiarities and significance of the fashion and costume of the 16th Century world.
It will be a lot of fun.
My name is Laura Martinez, and I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study of Medieval and Renaissance culture. I am passionate about fashion and I love music, embroidery and costuming. I am also a practitioner of period martial arts within the framework of the SCA. This includes rapier and armored combat, as well as the research, construction and use of period siege engines. Fashion cannot escape even the martial aspect of my hobby, as I also think that one should always look one's very best even on the battlefield.
In the Society, I am known as Maîtresse Belphoebe de Givet*, a 16th Century Frenchwoman, daughter of a judge from Rouen, and wife to an Italian merchant. Belphoebe has been at one point part of Catherine de Médici's "Flying Squad," the group of ladies of her entourage who doubled as intelligence-gatherers. Although now married and not residing at Court anymore, Belphoebe is still technically in the Queen's employ and carries out the occasional task, as her Royal Mistress requires.
* Within the context of the SCA, I am a member of the Order of the Laurel, which is pretty cool but it still does not buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks and does not allow me to jump over tall buildings in a single leap.
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